Thursday, April 30, 2009

Will a 2:36:00 Long Island Half Mary Make Me Happy?

I'm waffling a bit thinking about this upcoming Sunday's Long Island Half Marathon.
  • One one hand, I want to continue the strong performance I had in last weeks StA's Brick.
  • On the other had, I haven't run seriously in over a month since my calf injury in March. That day was my longest run in years but I paid a price for it.
  • On the first hand, at that race I was able to run at a 11:13/mile pace. If I could continue that pace I would have a half marathon finish time of 2:26:56
  • On the second hand, my pace per mile in the 10k last week was 11:52. Of course this was after a 40k bike.
  • On the first hand that 15k was on a hard hilly Central Park course.
  • On the second hand, rain and cold are in the forecast.
  • On the first hand, I haven't done a half in a long time but need to have one mentally for EaglePrep.
  • On the second hand my current half marathon PR is 2:53:58. I fully expect to be fast than this time but how much faster?
  • On the first hand, I don't really count the LI Half I completed in 2006 as that was mostly walking.

SisMB did a 2:37:22 LI Half in 2006 and DocWannaBe Caitlin threw up a 2:38:37 at the 2007 Lake Placid Half. A rockstar time of better than SisMB means better than 12:00/mile pace which means, most importantly, immediate family bragging rights. Of course, 2:30 would be better and accomplish bragging rights too.

Good thing my mind is in the right place.

Monday, April 27, 2009

St. Anthony's Brick - Does it count?

On Sunday the first wave of the St. Anthony's Triathlon was scheduled to splash into Tampa Bay at 6:50AM. Earlier in the week there was a concern around the water temperature being too hot (a reading on Friday was 79.1 degrees and the age group wetsuit threshold was 78.0). A bunch of us went for a swim on Saturday and it was choppy but I've been in the drink in worse conditions on multiple occasions. My wave, Clydesdales over 40, a.k.a. fat old guys, was scheduled for a 8:05 start. Based on the choppy conditions, I was rationalizing that my swim wasn't going to be great but the temperature of the water dropped to 74 so there was no issue expected with the wearing of the neoprene.

The alarm clock went off at 3:50AM, I ate some PB&J for breakfast with a Gatorade to wash it down and met some folks in the hotel lobby at 4:30 to head over to set up transition. It was the typical race experience once I got to the transition area as I went though body marking to get my age, number and the fat guy "C" on my leg. They asked me if I was planning on wearing a wetsuit and I enthusiastically said "YES" so they then marked my left hand. I entered the transition area and started setting up my stuff (the dividing of my gear into 3 separate clear gallon zip lock bags helped organize me fairly well). I finished setting up my run and bike stuff and was just about to pull out the wetsuit and the announcer said there was an important announcement. THE SWIM WAS CANCELLED FOR AGE GROUPERS DUE TO UNSAFE CONDITIONS. The pros, though, were going to swim.

First I thought it was a joke. Most people in transition weren't paying too much attention to the announcements as they were still focused on setting themselves up but after the announcer kept repeating it again and again it started to sink in. The revised plan was to have a time trial start with all the athletes going off in race number order every 2 seconds after the last pro finished the swim. The time started at the swim out and we would then do T1, bike, T2, and finally the run.

This threw a wrench into my whole pre-race strategy. I raced this race in 2008 and blew myself up on the bike. This resulted in slow bike split and caused me to effectively walk the run. This year I had trained a lot more and was stronger (and lighter having lost 30 pounds in the last few months). I was going to govern my effort by RPE with a power meter and my original plan was to try to average a little over 200w, backing it off if I saw the wattage over 250w. I figured without the swim I could go a little harder hoping to push the average to about 210w but to still keep 250w as the ceiling. The gotcha was that the unsafe water conditions were due to the choppy water and the chop seemed due to the strong winds. I estimated with winds at about 20mph.

Out on the bike I found the the wind odd. There didn't seem to be any spot with the wind completely a tail wind but also it wasn't completely a head wind either. It seemed always annoying but not as bad as it could be. I had a strong bike leg but overshot my power goal averaging 223w (NP229w). Even so, I wound up taking almost 12 minutes out of my bike split from last year. Of course, I constantly was concerned about going too hard on the bike as I wanted to leave something for the run.

The run was a challenge for me going into this race. I hadn't run more than a couple of miles at a time since I hurt my calf a few weeks ago. My plan was to start slow, walk through the water stops, and see how long my leg will stand up. It was also getting hot. What a surprise - hot in Florida.

The StA run course is a generally flat out and back. The wind was still annoying (and more noticeable on the out than on the back). I ran it per my plan, hydrating at every stop and, although slow for most real athletes, I set a PR for the 10k. I wish I knew how I did that but I wasn't going to complain.

Overall I took a lot of time out of 2008 and was very happy with how I did but the lack of the swim left me a little wanting. I'm sure that it was a tough decision to make and it was made with safety in mind. Some history probably colored their decision as I found that someone died in the swim in this race a few years back.

So here is my dilemma: Should I count these splits as part of my PRs? I'm saying yes but there could be some debate. I also have to find another Olympic Tri on the calendar to make sure this performance wasn't a fluke. I'm fairly sure I'll do this race again next year.

A happy day in the rockstar triathlon world.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The man with the plan

Was Verbal Kint really Keyser Soze in "The Usual Suspects?" In any event, he was the "man with the plan" and I figured that I needed my plan for StA stated to make sure I understand BikeMike's guidance and advice to help maximize my performance in this race. So, here are my thoughts and we'll see where it goes:

  • SWIM: I view this as a 3 little bears type of deal; too hard, too easy or just right. Understanding what "just right" is will be based on the conditions but in any case I really want to beat my last year time of 38:05. Before last year's race I thought the worst I could do would be 2:30/100m which translates into 37:30 for 1500m but the current said otherwise. I think I'm faster this year and 2:15/100m is about the right bogey. That means sub 34:00. There is a threat of no wetsuit (current water temp is 77 and limit is 78) but I'm neoprening up even if I have to go to a "wetsuit only" wave.
  • T1: I'm not focusing on transitions as I don't expect to make up any significant time. Last year was relatively slow @ 5:00. I would expect this year to be about the same.
  • BIKE: Last year my target was to go sub 1:20:00 (average >18mph). I held that for about half of the bike but this pace caused me to blow myself up so I wound up slogging it in for a split time of 1:28:53 (16.8mph). This year my longer training rides have been at about this pace. I hope to pick it up a bit for the race so my last year goal of sub 1:20 is probably still a good target. In order to do that I expect to average >200w but use BikeMike guidance of keeping under 250w. The wind may have an impact on time/speed and, of course, I have to listen to my body to prevent myself from blowing up again.
  • T2: see T1
  • RUN: The direct result of blowing myself up on the bike last year was that I effectively walked the 10k. This year I want to run the 10k and realize the best chance for success is managing effort on the bike. It is expected to be hot so I'll walk through the water stops while rehydrating. Even so, I would expect that I'll be better than my standalone 10k PR time of 11:45/mile (it has been a while). That means 1:15:00 or better if my body cooperates (before my latest injury 11:00 miles in a standalone 10K would have been slow).

This totals up to 3:18:00 (or about 26 minutes out of last years total). Verbal/Keyser, I can't get Mr. Kobayashi to reach out to you on this but I think it's about right. What do you think? Too aggressive or too conservative?

Monday, April 20, 2009

You look Mahvelous.....

In Randy Pausch's book, "The Last Lecture, " he wrote about choices in words for people to say certain things that make the message positive and he referenced Disney employees among the master of this skill. As an example he cited was that if a DisneyWorld employee is asked when the park will CLOSE, they will answer that the park will remain OPEN until 9PM. This is something that Disney trains their folks for and it help reinforce positive messages associated with that "magical" place.

Recently I've had a lot of people commenting on my physical transformation even though I still consider myself fat and not all that transformed. I have 25 pounds (or more) to go and still view myself when I line up against "real" athletes as someone who doesn't belong. The evidence and feedback that the scale provides on a daily basis reinforces that fact. But in the spirit of being positive, I've taken some comments I've gotten and flipped them a bit using Randy's logic (sort of) :
  • "You look good" means "you used to look not so good".
  • "Your face looks thin" means either "you looked like a chipmunk" or "three chins weren't that effective of a fashion statement."
  • "How much weight have you lost" means "how hard will it be for me to lose that much weight" or "you were really heavy."
  • "How are you doing it" means "you're still fatter than me but now I may have some work to do to keep pace." The answer of watching what I eat and exercise doesn't really resonate to most.

I don't think that I quite caught the essence of Pausch's point here (I'm not nor ever have been a Disney employee) but another take on this theme could be Fernando, pictured above as played by Billy Crystal, who often uttered "It's better to look good than to feel good" and "you look mahvelous." On the triathlon road, feeling good and feeling strong are much more important than looking good (although there may be something to why when some clydesdales enter the water in wetsuits, including some rockstars like yours truly, "fans" mention under their breath that beached whales and hippos must be more graceful in the water but that is a story for a different blog or a different day). More important for triathlons than how one looks, though, is how fast one actually is (or is not).

Last year at StAnthony's triathlon, I swam in 38:05, rode in 1:28:53, and "ran" in 1:29:01 for a total time of 3:44:57. This year I would be disappointed if any of those splits are slower. In fact, I expect to take a lot of time out of last year's performance with the normal act of God types of caveats on conditions. What is a lot of time? This question has been varying in my mind each day and I expect this waffling/yo-yo-ing to continue right until race time but hope to feel mahvelous during and immediately after the race and save the looking mahvelous, as best I can, for the victory party Sunday night.

Another step on the road to EagleDay.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

MiniMightyMan April 2009

A light fell into the pool at Eisenhower Park (see,0,2506248.story ) so that means no swimming for the MMM scheduled for this weekend as the pool is closed. They've changed the event to be a 1m run, 6m bike, and finally a 1m run. While I wanted to do this race, I'm probably going to bail as the whole point in doing it was to work on swim to bike transition prior to StA. I've taken it off the upcoming events.

There's a 3 hour ride on the training calendar instead and the weather is supposed to be good.

Rock on.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Field Trip Part 2: Dorchester YMCA 1/2 Marathon - DNF better than DNS

I biked the EM bike course on Friday and I was continuing my field trip with a scheduled run along the course on Saturday. I found out that the Dorchester YMCA was sponsoring a 1/2 marathon along the course of the EM run so I signed up a few weeks ago. This was all before my latest injury battle with my right calf.

I hadn't run for more than 14 minutes in 3 weeks but was going to give it a shot and see how far I could go. On race day my leg was still yipping, the rain was falling, and the wind was blowing. At least it wasn't too cold as the temperature was about 50.

This was a nice race, much smaller in terms of participants that what I'm used to. As an example, NYRR races in Central Park close out at 5000 people while this race had about 200 souls braving the conditions. I wouldn't have to use, as Amanda as coined it, SMS (swift maneuvering skills) at the start to gain some room to run.

My leg hurt from the beginning so I slowed it down - with me slowing it down any more would have resulted in me going backwards - with a few walking breaks. The SAG van asked if I was OK. My family was at the 2.5 mile mark and I told them I was going to run a little more but not do the whole thing. I ran (jogged) a little more then circled back. Perhaps I could have done more but I was more concerned about the next day, St Anthony's in two weeks and Eagleman in June. I totaled about 5.25 slow miles. None the less, a DNF.

The next day my leg was no better, no worse so I didn't add any lasting harm but I came to the realization that this leg issue won't get better on its own quickly. Time to get some help, to make sure this is only a muscle problem, and get in the fast lane to recovery.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Field Trip #1 Part One: A good ride.

This weekend the family and I took a trip down to Cambridge, MD to preview the Eaglecourse and to better understand the lay of the land. Actually I went down there to do this and they came along to keep me company.

The weather forecast called for rain and more rain but there was a glimmer of hope as to when it would start. We got in about midnight after our long ride and I had a decision to make: do I get up early and do this ride sleepy or do I wake up on the natural rise and risk getting wet. I chose to take the risk.

When I woke up it wasn't raining. I got everything ready and the wheels were rolling at about 9. Unfortunately, the hotel was a little longer from the start than I expected (about 5m rather than the 1/4 inch on the map) but I stopped at a store and loaded up a bottle of Gatorade and water (in addition to my 6 gels and 2 bars). I found the start and looked over the calm Choptank (completely against reputation) and started the ride. I expected to keep about 200w and see what the wind brought (even though there seemed little wind at the start).

The wind kicked up a few minutes into the ride and the ride itself was fairly uneventful except for the 5 mile stretch of road work that made riding a bike like holding a jack hammer. Of course the wind played a part but I gained a new respect for long straight aways going 12 mph into the wind.

Not counting the time I took to reload the hydration, I did the course in about 3:20 holding average power of 187w (NP of 193w) on the first 42 miles and average 180w (NP 190w) on the rest. This was a little lower than I expected and I'm blaming some on the road work but at least gave me a data point to baseline.

It also renewed my respect for the wind.

And the rain didn't start until after my ride.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Remembering the weather.

Last Sunday the wind was howling. I rode inside on Saturday since I was afraid of Saturday's weather so I figured I should do my scheduled Sunday workout outside. The ride was difficult but I circled Heckscher Park for 25 miles in 90 minutes with 22 mph winds gusting to 31 mph. I don't know how long I'll remember that weather day being April 5 but probably will have some recollections of windy conditions the next time I'm at Heckscher or (hopefully not while) down in Cambridge for Eagleman when the wind is blowing.

In contrast, it was snowing 13 years ago today on Long Island. How do I know that? Happy Birthday, Giraffeey Girl.